As 16MAY Legal Strike Deadline Looms, WS Vows Deal Can be Made with Pilots

WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech
WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech

One day before a 16MAY deadline, Simple Flying reports that neither the WestJet pilots' union nor the airline has given 72-hour notice of a strike or lock out by management. WestJet issued a statement on Friday, 12MAY that it's still confident a deal can be reached.

As previously reported by Open Jaw, 1,850 WestJet and Swoop pilots who are Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) union members have been negotiating a new contract since fall of 2022. ALPA and its pilot members reportedly continue to push for a “North American / industry-standard contract,” which would narrow the gap between wages at WestJet and other airlines in North America, particularly those in the U.S.

On 18APR, ALPA members voted to authorize strike action should "lawful job action should a negotiated settlement not be reached by May 16."

With this deadline looming, WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech published a statement on 12MAY saying the airline is "serious about getting a deal."

"Despite our ongoing recovery from the significant financial strain from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have brought forward a contract that is both reasonable and addresses the top asks of our valued pilots namely job security and scope, working conditions and meaningful wage improvements," von Hoensbroech said.

He added that WestJet is "committed to getting a deal" and avoiding impacts to guests. At the same time, von Hoensbroech stressed that WestJet is "equally ready to hold our ground on what is reasonable and to take actions to bring this to a resolution to give the Canadian travelling public, and our people, the certainty they deserve."

Nonetheless, the airline has consistently maintained that a so-called industry-standard deal was not on the cards.

On 08MAY, WestJet reiterated a previous statement from von Hoensbroech, saying Canadian pilots are not in a position to get the same terms as a new pilot deals in the U.S.

“ALPA is suggesting that Canadian pilots earn roughly half of what U.S. pilots earn and creating an expectation that wages should be doubled as part of a new agreement, to reflect the U.S. industry," the statement read.

He also pointed out that, unlike Canada's air industry, “the U.S. aviation sector is supported by tax money and saw strong financial support during the COVID-19 pandemic,” and “ALPA’s expectations of wages, if realized, would pose a significant impact to WestJet’s ability to remain competitive and provide affordable air travel to Canadians.”

The statement also asserted that WestJet pilots are already among the best-paid in the country and top-earners “across all professions.”

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